#8220;Many of the bones of the skeleton are fragile, yet they were all deeply embedded in a concrete-like rock called breccia,#8221; Clarke explains.
#8220;This is one of the most remarkable fossil discoveries made in the history of human origins research and it is a privilege to unveil a finding of this importance today,#8221; says Clarke.
The 20-year long period of excavation, cleaning, reconstruction, casting, and analysis of the skeleton has required a steady source of funding, which was provided by the Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST) #8211; a Johannesburg-based NGO that promotes research, education and outreach in the sciences related to our origins. Among its many initiatives aimed at uplifting the origin sciences across Africa, PAST has been a major funder of research at Sterkfontein for over two decades.
Clarke realized soon after the discovery that they were on to something highly significant and started the specialized process of excavating the skeleton in the cave up through 2012, when the last visible elements were removed to the surface in blocks of breccia. #8220;My assistants and I have worked on painstakingly cleaning the bones from breccia blocks and reconstructing the full skeleton until the present day,#8221; says Clarke.
Professor Ron Clarke from Wits University is shown with skull of Little Foot. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )